Jayaprakash Narain was a freedom fighter and a political leader and is known for his pivotal role in the Quit India Movement of 1942. Known by his allies as JP, Jai Prakash also spearheaded the opposition to Indira Gandhi during the 1970s.
Jai Prakash Narain also known as Jai Prakash, JP Narayan or Lok Nayak was born on October 11, 1902 in the village of Sitabdiara in the Saran district of Bihar to Harshudayal who was a junior official in the Canal department of the State Government and Phul Rani Devi. He married Prabhavati Devi, another freedom fighter and a strong follower of Kasturba Gandhi. Though they held contradicting viewpoints, they upheld respect for each other.
Role in Freedom Struggle of India
From the very beginning he was an extremely bright student and went to the United States to pursue a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Sociology and Politics in 1922. The Marxist ideology and the writings of M.N.Roy had a great influence on him during his student years. In 1929, after he had finished his studies and returned to India, he received an invitation from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to join the Indian National Congress. During his association with the Indian National Congress, Mahatma Gandhi became his mentor and guide.
He was jailed and tortured many times by the British for his active involvement in the freedom struggle. In 1932, when he was behind bars for his role in the Civil Disobedience Movement, he met a number of other political leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia, Yusuf Desai and Ashok Mehta. After his release from jail, the Congress Socialist Party was set up with Acharya Narendra Deva as the President and Jai Prakash Narain as the General Secretary.
After the Independence and the death of Gandhi, Jai Prakash along with Acharya Narendra Deva and Basawon Singh directed the CSP out of the Congress to create a strong opposition Socialist Party. Later, it came to be known as the Praja Socialist Party.
Sarvodaya Movement and Total Revolution
In 1954, at a meeting in Gaya, Jai Prakash announced that he was going to dedicate his life to Vinoba Bhave’s Sarvodaya movement. He gave up his land in the village and renounced his personal pleasures to devote the remainder of his life to the movement. He set up a small ashram in the village of Hazaribagh and gave a new dimension to Gandhian concepts by combining modern technology to it to uplift the village. Jai Prakash was of the opinion that every village should be like a small republic in itself with political independence and the ability to make their own decisions and care for themselves.
In 1971, when the Naxals had threatened to kill the Sarvodaya workers in Muzaffarpur in Bihar, he spent a lot of time and effort to address the problems of the Naxalites. He was also instrumental in achieving the surrender of dacoits in the Chambal Valley. He also gave a call for a peaceful Total Revolution. Jai Prakash also inspired a student movement by raising a call for ‘Sampoorna Kranthi’ ‘ or complete revolution.
In 1974, when India was in the middle of high inflation, unemployment and lack of basic commodities, he led a peaceful agitation by the Navanirman Andolan in Gujarat. In June the same year, Jai Prakash addressed a huge crowd at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna. He declared publicly, “This is a revolution, friends! We are not here merely to see the Vidhan Sabha dissolved. That is only one milestone on our journey. But we have a long way to go… After 27 years of freedom, people of this country are wracked by hunger, rising prices, and corruption oppressed by every kind of injustice… it is a Total Revolution we want, nothing less!”
Days of Emergency
In 1975, when Indira Gandhi clamped the emergency, Jai Prakash was imprisoned and sent to Chandigarh where he was kept as a prisoner in a hospital. When his health deteriorated further, he was moved to Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. He was diagnosed of kidney failure and that he would be on dialysis for the rest of his life. In the United Kingdom, the “Free JP” campaign was launched by Surur Hoda and chaired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Noel- Baker for the release of Jayaprakash Narayan from prison.
Finally in 1977, when the elections were held, many parties united to form the Janata Party under the aegis of Jai Prakash. However, some time later he had to painfully witness the collapse of the Janata Party government. After his death, people hailed him as “Lok Nayak” or the leader of the people.
Last Days of Jayaprakash Narain
Jai Prakash Narain took his last breath on October 8, 1979 (at the age of 76) in Patna, Bihar, three days before his 77th birthday due to the effect of diabetes and heart ailments. In the same year in March, his death had been erroneously announced by the then Prime Minister creating a wave of national mourning which included the suspension of parliament and radio broadcasting, and temporary closure of shops and schools. When he was told about this mistake some weeks later, he simply smiled.
Awards and Recognition
In 1965, he was awarded the Magsaysay award for Public Service. In 1999, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in recognition of his social work.
Soon after his death, his nationalist friend and a prolific writer of Hindi literature, Ramavriksha Benipuri wrote his biography titled ‘Jayaprakash.’
In 2011, the members of the India Against Corruption recalled the contributions of Jai Prakash Narain on his death anniversary. They garlanded the statue of the socialist leader and took pledges to fulfill the commitments made by him on Right to Recall. They decided to conduct a seminar on Right to Recall as well as Right to Reject.
There are other campaigns that run in many schools and colleges every year to commemorate the leader. A school in Dhanbad, Ranchi conducted a tree plantation campaign on his death anniversary last year.
In one speech to commemorate the political leader, the former Prime Minister of India said, “Jayaprakash Narayan has left an indelible impression in the country’s post-Independence history by occupying a central place in its political affairs. He resisted any kind of injustice and authoritarianism.” He recalled the days when he worked very closely with JP to resist the “authoritarian rule” of late Indira Gandhi.
Speaking on an occasion writer K.B. Siddaiah urged the youth to continue the movement for ‘fight against corruption’ much on the lines of the one led by Jai Prakash Narain.
The memories and ideals of Jai Prakash Narain were invoked in India’s yet another fight against corruption led by Anna Hazare. His ideals are still relevant even today and are extremely revered by those fighting against bureaucracy and corruption.